Trippin’ Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 11, August 1969
A new day. Marvin decided we should go to town for drinks and more nails—in that order. Charlie and Pee stayed with Nina at the lake.
As we waited for the train, Marvin explained, “They call this train the Moose Goose’er on account that sometimes it hits or scares a moose off the tracks. It goes back and forth between Anchorage and Fairbanks every day and it’s free for us settlers. You can hop on or off anywhere you want. If you’re on the train, you go back to the baggage car and tell the conductor where to stop and he talks to the engineer by phone. Or if you want to catch the train, you pull out a handkerchief and wave it, and the engineer will stop for you. How cool is that?”
After picking up nails, we went to the Fairview Inn for dinner and drinks. Mike, the owner and bartender, offered a room above the bar with a half-dozen army cots. “Mike always lets us crash here since there won’t be another train until tomorrow,” Marvin slurred. He had downed a few more shots than either of us.
The following two days, we nailed shingle material on the roof. With the house nearly finished, we all returned to town to celebrate.
At the bar, Marvin continued a conversation with Albert from the night before. He asked me, “Hey, Rich. You want to come to Anchorage with us to find a whorehouse?”
I had a “been there, done that” attitude when it came to whores. I joked with Marvin, “I’d feel like I’d be cheating on Carmen.”
“She’s the lady I was with in Nogales. I recall you were cozying up to someone named Daphne.”
“Oh God, don’t remind me. So this Carmen was good?”
“Let’s just say, if you’ve dined with the Queen, the company of commoners feels a bit ho-hum.”
“Whatever. Albert and I are going. See you two later.”
I glanced at Nina. It was obvious that she didn’t really give a shit if Marvin did his thing. She was a pretty woman too—though she didn’t advertise it with her simple self-inflicted haircut, flannel shirt, jeans, and work boots. How did she stay so flexible with Marvin’s idiosyncrasies?
Talk about an unlikely match.
If Marvin was chasing tail and he was OK with sharing his wife with a visitor, I could only hope to get lucky tonight. That is, if Nina was game.
After the guys drove off, Nina and I ordered dinner at the bar. It was nice spending some one-on-one time with her. She was usually quiet, fading into the background when Marvin was around since it was his nature to hog the limelight.
I told the bartender, “I need to find work to pay for my flight home.”
“I heard old Charlie Parker is looking for someone to help him build his mining camp.”
“Yep. He’s convinced he’s found the lost Chulitna Mine, and he wants to finish the camp before he starts mining it.”
“What’s the lost Chulitna Mine?”
“Many years ago this fellow would come to town every so often, always with a bag filled with rich gold nuggets. He’d spend it and then head off again, somewhere up on the Chulitna River. No one ever knew what became of him or where his mine was.
"Old Charlie thinks he’s found it, and he’s been building his mining camp for several years now. He was looking for help a while back. I’ll give a call and see if he still needs someone.”
Mike soon came back and said, “Charlie still needs help. Be there the day after tomorrow, and I’ll let him know you’re coming. It’s about fifty miles north of here. The conductor on the train will know where to drop you off. Just tell him Charlie Parker’s place.”
“Thanks, Mike. I really appreciate it.” That was easy!
After we ate, Nina and I had a drink or two or three … maybe four. Actually, we were shit-faced, as entertainment was scarce in the land of the midnight sun. Nina went to get the key to upstairs.
She came back and said, “Mike won’t let us stay.”
“What? Does he think Marvin will be pissed if we’re shacking up together here?”
“What do we do?”
“Only thing we can do is walk home. It’s a ten-mile hike. I’ve made it before, but never at night. At least there’s a good moon out and it never gets completely dark this time of year.”
“If that’s the only option, I guess we better get started.”
Walking up the tracks, Nina was on edge—looking around. “I hope we don’t run into a bear. A moose with a little one could be dangerous too. You don’t want to get between a mother moose and her baby.”
“I believe it. I told you about that vicious mama elk at the free zoo.”
“Yeah, well a moose is even bigger than an elk.”
We walked for a while and then Nina came down with a serious case of hiccups—and I mean serious—like only three to four seconds between them!
hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! ...
It reminded me of the cartoons of drunken people with hiccups. I never really thought about it happening, but here was living proof.
hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! …
I felt for Nina. She was suffering. I wish we had water with us. She could hold her breath between sips. That usually worked for me. Of course, I never had hiccups this severe.
hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! …
It’s said that you can scare the hiccups out of someone. Oh well, it can’t hurt to take a crack at it.
hic! … hic! … hic! … hic! …
Stopping short, I stared over her shoulder wide eyed and with a loud abrupt gasp exclaimed, “A Bear!”
Nina jumped, looking around. “Oh Shit! Where? Where?! Which way!”
Listening for a moment, I said, “Hey, it worked. Your hiccups are gone.”
It surprised me when Nina glared in my direction with fury in her eyes and began pummeling my chest with the sides of her fists. She was out of control, like an angry rock drummer, playing to the crowd.
I gripped her close to me by her shoulders, so her arms were restricted. “Hey, wait a minute. Hey! Hey! Calm down! Cool it! I was just trying to help. And your hiccups are gone.” She struggled persistently, but to no avail. When I knew she’d composed herself, I let her loose, and she pulled away.
Then she shouted: “Don’t you ever do anything like that again, damn it!”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d take it so hard. I had heard that a good fright could drive hiccups away. And it did. But I’m sorry. I really was only trying to help.”
We continued walking in silence, but before long she could even joke about our scuffle. Finally, we stumbled down the dark trail to the shelter. We were both beat but glad to be home. Charlie and Pee were overjoyed to see us.
Now I’m not the type of philanderer that would normally consider bedding another man’s wife—especially, the spouse of a friend. But Marvin and Nina’s relationship blurred all the rules. Marvin had expressed his version of hospitality and was out whoring tonight so I saw no harm in testing the waters with Nina. Besides, I was hornier than a chained-up rooster from fantasizing about Rosie. What can I say? I was a man with a need!
When we were both ready for bed, I asked, “Do you want some company?”
“I guess so.” All right! “But I don’t want to get pregnant. We’ll have to use the back door.” The back door?
She brought out the biggest jar of Vaseline Jelly I’d ever seen and placed it next to the bed. It must have held a half-gallon of the gooey stuff. Then she stripped off her flannel nightgown and slipped between the sheets. I shed my long johns and crawled in beside her. And after fooling around for a while, she grabbed that big jar—and strange as it seemed (and because beggars can’t be choosers) I didn’t protest.
What the hell! When in Rome ... right? Or is it Nome?
I’m pretty sure I slept with a pretty stupid grin on my face.
To be continued ...
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Trippin': Roads, Rails and Mountain Trails
A Message from Rich
Trippin’ is my personal gift to all of you. For me, the ’60s were a heartfelt time of growth, exploration, freedom, and brotherhood. I hope to impart a truthful account of what it was like to live as a hippie in that wacky, magical era. Enjoy the journey!